The Messerschmitt Bf 110 (often referred to as the Me 110) was a heavy fighter that was used by Germany during World War II.
The first production model of the Bf 110 series was the Bf 110B, as the Bf 110A models were just pre-production prototypes. The Bf 110B had dual Junkers Jumo 210G Engines that were capable of propelling it at speeds of up to 514 km/h. A cantilever low wing monoplane with flush riveted duralumin skin, the 110 had a fuselage built as an oval section monocoque structure, with an extensively glazed elongated canopy.
The tailplane with endplate fins was mounted above the end of the fuselage. The main undercarriage members retracted into the rear on the wing mounted engine nacelles, and the tailwheel folded into the rear fuselage. Standard armament consisted of two 20mm autocannons and four 7.7mm machine guns mounted in the nose of the aircraft along with an additional 7.7mm machine gun mounted in the rear to serve in a defensive gunner mount. However, later models were equipped with a number of 20mm autocannons mounted just behind the cockpit in a Schräge Musik fashion to counter bombing raids.
The Bf 110 had many variants, the first of which was the Bf 110C which had been fitted with dual Daimler Benz DB 601A engines and was first used during the conflicts in Poland. Following it had come the C-1, C-2, C-3, and C-4 sub variants. The C-2 had been first to introduce improved radio equipment, the C-3 had brought improved armament, and the C-4 had further crew armor plating added to it.
The C-4/B however was a fighter-bomber conversion with hardpoints and a Daimler Benz DB 601N engine to suit. Also produced were the C-5, C-6, and C-7 conversions that also had their own improvements added. The C-5 with reconnaissance photo equipment, the C-6 bomber destroyer with an added 30mm autocannon, and the C-7 with an increased bomb load for its fighter bomber conversion.
The Bf 110D series had been designed with the purpose of creating an even longer range fighter conversion of the original platform. The first of its sub-variants was the D-1 or R-1, with external fuel tanks being available to it.
Though the U-1 variant was a night fighter, it also had these same fuel tanks added with the execption that it had an infrared detector mounted in its nose. The D-2 could carry and even greater bomb load of up to 1,000 kilograms worth of ordnance. The D-3 was designed to be a long-range escort fighter fitted with drop tanks.
The Bf 110E was a fighter bomber conversion with underwing racks added for bomb carriage. The subsequent E-1 though was a night fighter. The E-3 was a reconnaissance model that had most of its armament and other offensive weaponry removed to allow it to travel greater distances. The whole of the F series meanwhile were again fighter bomber conversions except for the F-3 and F-4 models. The F-3 being reconnaissance and the F-4 being a night fighter. However, the F-4 differed greatly from its night fighter companions in that it had introduced two underwing 30mm autocannons and even space to fit a whole extra crew member.
The final variants of the Bf 110 were all in the G and H series. The G series had been designed largely to serve as heavy fighters and night fighters. The G-2 for example had two additional 30mm autocannons mounted in its nose, though these replaced the four 7.7mm machine guns.
The G-3 had its cannons removed in favor of reconnaissance equipment. The final variants, the H series consisted of the H-1, H-2, H-3, and H-4. Overall, all these versions had two 30mm autocannons in their nose and their fuselage was strengthened. In order, they were a heavy fighter, a fighter bomber, a reconnaissance model, and a night fighter.
The Bf 110 was conceived in 1934 following the issuing of a Luftwaffe requirement for a long range strategic fighter aircraft.[N 1] Designed around a pair of DB-601 engines, the first prototype made its maiden flight from Augsburg-Haunstetten airfield on 12 May 1936, reaching a speed of 316 mph during its early test flights.
The second and third prototypes made their first flights on 24 October (Bf-110V2) and 24 December (Bf-110V3), with the second prototype transferring to the Luftwaffe's test centre at Rechlin on 14 January 1937.
The test pilots at Rechlin were enthusiastic about the type's speed, which was superior to the Messerschmitt Bf 109B-1, but unimpressed by the Bf-110's sluggish acceleration and manoeuvrability. Following the test flights, Bayserische Flugzeugwerke received instructions to construct four Bf-110A-0 aircraft for service evaluation. These were completed between August 1937 and March 1938, and carried five 7.9mm machine guns - four fixed MG 17s in the upper nose and a single free mounted MG 15 in the rear cockpit. Powered by 610 hp Jumo 210B engines with two blade variable propellers, due to development problems with the intended DB 600 engines, the Bf-110A-0s proved to be underpowered, attaining a maximum speed at 12,346 lb loaded weight of 267 mph at 12,470 ft.
Next came two Bf-110B-0 aircraft powered by Jumo 210G engines, the first of these making it's initial flight on 19 April 1938. These were followed by the DB600A powered Bf-110B-1 production model, which supplemented the machine gun armament of the A-0 with a pair of 20mm NG FF autocannon in the nose. The Bf-110B-2 was similar to the B-1, and was followed by the B-3 trainer. The B subtype was soon replaced on the production line by the Bf-110C, which was powered by DB601As with direct fuel injection. The first Bf-110C-0 aircraft were delivered to the Luftwaffe in February 1939, with the C-1 production variant following shortly afterwards.
The Bf 110 didn't wait very long until its night fighter versions, Bf 110 F-4 and Bf 110 G-4, were developed. The Bf 110 saw a successful start during the Polish Campaign, the Invasions of Denmark and Norway, and the Battle of France. However, during the Battle of Britain, the Bf 110's fatal flaw showed up. The Bf 110 was no match for the Hurricane or the Spitfire. During 15–17 August 1940, 53 Bf 110s were lost. 30 of those destroyed on 15 August. 23 others were destroyed between 16–17 August.
After the Battle of Britain, the Bf 110 saw more service during the Balkans Campaign, the North African Theater of War, the Eastern Front, and the Defense of the Reich. Soon enough, the majority of Bf 110s saw service as night fighters. Many managed to score high kills with the Bf 110 serving as a night fighter, but none were as high as Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, who scored 121 aerial victories all while flying the Bf 110 during the Defense of the Reich.
- In effect, this was Germany's attempt at producing a long range twin engine fighter with performance matching that of a single engine interceptor.
- Kay, Antony L and J R Smith. German Aircraft of the Second World War. Putnam Aeronautical Books. 2002. ISBN 0 85177 920 4 Page 240
- Green, William. Famous Fighters of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services. 1975. Page 262
- Weal 1999 pp. 47-49